To help celebrate the news of the original line-up of Black Sabbath reuniting for a world tour and new studio album, I decided to provide coverage of local Seattle Black Sabbath tribute band, Bastard of Reality. Bastard of Reality last played on Dec. 3, 2011 at The Mix in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. Originally scheduled to open, they ended up headlining this particular gig. (For a related article, please also see Interview with Bastard of Reality singer David Hillman.)
The first band to play was Ronnie James Dio tribute Stand Up and Shout, who got the crowd worked up with a diverse setlist drawn from the Dio-fronted Black Sabbath albums, solo Dio material, and additional material from Rainbow, Elf, and Heaven & Hell.
Prior to Bastard of Reality’s set I was invited backstage to witness the band’s transformation. The band members put on wigs (except for “Ozzy”, singer David Hillman, who already has long hair), along with costume jewelry and 70’s-era fringed shirts. David bears a passing resemblance to Ozzy Osbourne, but none of the other members match their real-life counterparts very closely in appearance. The extra care put into the outfits and makeup do give an air of authenticity, though. Then, one by one the band members got on stage, set to the epic instrumental “Supertzar” from the Sabotage album.
The first song of the set was “Tomorrow’s Dreams” from Black Sabbath Vol 4. Then came “Wicked World” and “Warning” both from the self-titled debut album Black Sabbath. “Warning” is in fact a cover of The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation and makes for an interesting choice for a tribute band to play, particularly since it’s not properly a Black Sabbath song and it’s also more of a jazz/blues song than heavy metal. If you haven’t heard the original, you can listen to it here.
Next up came the classics “War Pigs” and “Paranoid” (both from Paranoid) before one of my all-time favorites “Snowblind” (Black Sabbath Vol 4). Bastard of Reality then returned to the debut album for the songs “Black Sabbath” and “The Wizard”. David even learned the harmonica part for “The Wizard”, which takes a surprising amount of dedication for a tribute band singer. Highlights later in the set included “Into the Void”, “Iron Man”, “Children of the Grave”, and “Fairies Wear Boots”.
Dec. 3 also happens to be the real Ozzy Osbourne’s birthday. So, in true rock-star fashion David accepted an impressive amount of drinks from followers of the band and friends. There seemed to be at least six shots of tequila, and another six pints of Guinness, delivered to the stage in celebration of “Ozzy’s birthday”. Yet the show commenced without a hitch, just as the real Ozzy would have wanted it to. There were also a few comical jokes related to Ronnie James Dio, for example when the band jokingly played a few bars of Dio’s signature Black Sabbath song “Heaven & Hell”, before David yelled at the band to “cut that s*** out! It’s my birthday!”
For this particular set Bastard of Reality drew material solely from the first four albums: six songs from Black Sabbath, four from Paranoid, four from Master of Reality, and two from Black Sabbath Vol 4. From the setlist, the outfits, and even the onstage banter, it seems Bastard of Reality is drawn heavily to the first two Sabbath albums and especially the self-titled debut album. This is a great thing for many Sabbath fans, as it highlights the band when they were still hungry, when they were a bit closer to being a jazz/blues house band, before all the money and drugs and contract disputes.
The early Black Sabbath material also highlights that the band was, from the beginning, very politically aware. Their lyrics dealt with the horrors of war, political corruption, drug abuse, and other timely topics. “War Pigs” was written at the time of the Vietnam War, but it could just as easily be about Iraq or Afghanistan or any other hotspot. We’ve heard the original version so many countless times, but it’s refreshing to see a young and impassioned band play the same music, to help give new meaning and perspective to songs that are now 40 years old.
Musically, Bastard of Reality play everything pretty much the same as the original songs. I’ve listened to these albums countless times, and seen Black Sabbath live several times, and sometimes Bastard of Reality sounds better than the actual band. David Hillman really does sound similar to Ozzy and has many of his mannerisms down; drummer Scott Tatman sounds amazingly like Bill Ward; guitarist Eric Getty captures the Tony Iommi sound while injecting his own style at times; and, bassist Bob Crow provides for a solid groove and even nails the bass solo at the beginning of “N.I.B.”
The actual Black Sabbath are brilliant of course. It’s just their setlists have become very stagnant over the years. Sabbath never plays longer than an hour, and a lot of that time has Ozzy screaming at the crowd “I can’t f***ing hear you” or leading the crowd in hooligan-style soccer chants. And Sabbath will of course never be playing at a small bar in Georgetown. Next time Bastard of Reality come to town do yourself a favor and check out their show. You will likely hear forgotten Sabbath gems that the real band simply wouldn’t play now, or maybe just Sabbath classics with an invigorated sense of purpose.
The full setlist for the Dec. 3 show was as follows:
- Tomorrow’s Dream – Black Sabbath Vol 4
- Wicked World – Black Sabbath
- Warning – Black Sabbath
- War Pigs – Paranoid
- Paranoid – Paranoid
- Snowblind – Black Sabbath Vol 4
- Black Sabbath –Black Sabbath
- The Wizard – Black Sabbath
- Behind the Wall of Sleep/N.I.B. – Black Sabbath
- Hand of Doom – Paranoid
- Into the Void – Master of Reality
- Lord of this World – Master of Reality
- Sweet Leaf – Master of Reality
- Iron Man – Paranoid
- Embryo/Children of the Grave – Master of Reality
- Fairies Wear Boots – Black Sabbath
Finally, if you would like to see the progression of Bastard of Reality, you can view below a medley of songs from their very first concert, on Dec. 31, 2010 at The Mix in Seattle.
For more articles about grunge rock, hard rock and heavy metal please see:
- Concert Review – Guns of Barisal, Swarming Hordes, The Abodox
- EMP Museum’s ‘Nirvana: Taking Punk To The Masses’
- Interview with Bastard of Reality singer David Hillman
- Jar Of Flies (Alice In Chains tribute) live in Lynnwood, WA
- Layne Staley Last 3 Recorded Songs
- New Sub Pop Airport Store open for business
- Review of Guns N’ Roses – ‘Chinese Democracy’
- Soundgarden – ‘Screaming Life/FOPP Reissue’
(This article was originally published Jan. 2, 2012 for the content site Examiner.com. Updates: Bastard of Reality has been on hiatus since 2015. The tribute Stand Up and Shout is no longer active. The Georgetown venue The Mix went out of business; the last show was on Oct. 31, 2015.)
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